So, it’s been a little but since I talked about the Yeatses’ spiritualist material. A large part of that has to do with how clearly it fits into the hungry ghost model. There isn’t a single trait of the hungry ghost experience that you can’t find in the Vision materials: hypnotism, talkative spirits, pseudo-historical identities, warnings about rival spirits looking to interfere with them, cosmological speculation, striking physical manifestations, draining the medium. That’s a lot of red flags.
There are some redeeming qualities, though. The spirits seem less interested in the cosmological speculation than William. While they deign to talk about such things, they often seem to do so with a certain sense of resignation (“oh for the love of…William wants to hear about the afterlife again”). While they do engage in some striking physical manifestations, they are less concerned with dramatic proofs of there power (like healing).
They show concern for their medium’s fatigue and advise the Yeatses to take it easy on channeling. Finally, they show a great deal of interest in family and children, stating one of their key works to be be securing the birth of the children and their well-being in life, and they do seem to manage that quite tidily. If the volume of material is any indication, their direct interaction with the Yeatses declines sharply after the family is established.
So, it’s a mixed bag. My working hypothesis right now is that the level at which channeling operates is, for the lack of a better word, a noisy medium for spiritual signal and that anything approached at the level is going to have to run at the hungry ghost spectrum, even if the message derives from elsewhere. Which means that there is going to be a lot of unnecessary complication and mimicry that responds to the minds of those involved (speaking of Populus) even when the message derives from a trustworthy source. Yesod in full effect, as it were.
To properly grasp the message, then, the material needs to be heavily winnowed. What is particularly fragile or subtle is probably part of the material that needs to be cleared away. What follows is my first-draft movement toward that winnowing.
Caveat lector, caveat lector, caveat lector.
Some of the questions of what to strip and what to leave are tough ones. The reality of reincarnation is a tough one here. William, steeped in spiritualism and theosophy, is hungry for precisely those sorts of details. The elaborate system of reincarnation that William extracts, though, is right out. It has the meaningless complexity that seems to characterize the poisonous aspects of the hungry ghost experience. That said, the complexity itself may be a sign worthy of study.
On what am I basing my judgments? I am comparing it to other forms of gnosis and appreciating deep patterns atop which the excessive elaboration sits and I am comparing it to my personal gnosis (which has itself been subject to the process of comparison).
All this said, let’s get down to business.
The core of the Yeatsian message is a description of human life and its spiritual core. It can be summarized thusly:
“The universe is the interaction of living beings who only teach when that teaching is part of their own destiny, compelled by others, or impelled by their own desire of reality, that desire of reality which is but the longing to be desolved [sic], or achieved.” (Yeats’s Vision Papers, Volume 3, p. 71)
This is a very restrictive definition of teaching. This is, as Sting sings, the sort of knowledge they don’t teach in college.
The teachings develop in three stages: initiatory moments, crises, and beatific visions. In the Yeatsian material these have no direct relationship to occult practice. The Yeatses’ spirits are clear that what happens in things like a Golden Dawn initiation can prepare one for certain kinds of spiritual experience and work, but they are not the initiatory moments that the spirits are describing. To preserve that distinction, I will use the full phrase “initiatory moment” or “IM” whenever I am talking about the Yeatsian model.
Initiatory moments prepare the individual for crises which, properly resolved, make it possible for an individual to receive a beatific vision. There are two series of initiatory moments in a person’s life, each leading to a crisis. The Yeatses’ spirits emphasize that the romantic relationship forms the most basic and most frequent vehicle for the production of initiatory moments, and thereby crises.
During an initiatory moment, the individual undergoes a change of sentiment and/or conviction. They experience something that changes their attitude toward an object or person in their life. These moments begin and end in concrete events, often of a romantic nature (e.g., the betrayal of a lover, the discovery of a shared patriotism). It is these changes in attitude that make possible the eventual crisis.
While you may have many, many initiatory moments that lead into a crisis, you have only two crises in a lifetime. Reading between the lines, you may be able to come to the moment of the same crisis more than once and back away from it, but you can only pass through two moments of crisis.
There are only two forms of crisis. One provides the opportunity for the person to overcome pity and the other the opportunity for them to overcome deceit. The Yeatsian spirits indicate that men and women encounter the two crisis in opposite order, with men experiencing the crisis of pity first and women experiencing the crisis of deceit first (I suspect this is true, at best, at a statistical level, describing generalities).
Overcoming pity entails distinguishing between intellect and will. These are technical terms for the Yeatses, but we can distill it to simpler terms. Intellect defines our active and practical mind, our ability to appreciate and manipulate what exists in the world. Will defines our temperament, our nature, and contains an implied notion of what is healthy for us. Pity, then, occurs when we use our intellect to manipulate something, usually someone, into serving as a mirror for our desires.
In other words, pity is the pygmalion complex, where we attempt to remake the beloved or desired into an image of what we desire.
Overcoming deceit entails distinguishing between what the Yeatses term the “body of our fate” and “our mask.” The body of fate is simply sum total of the world in which we find ourselves. It includes all the heterogenous series of people, places, objects, and events that compose our life. The mask is an image we produce for ourselves of what we desire, it is the outer expression of our will. Deceit is here self-deceit, because it entails mistaking the life we have for what we desire.
In other words, deceit is resignation, where we attempt to make-do with the beloved or desired that we have.
Initiatory moments connect an individual to their world, and in the moments of crises the individual has to come to terms with the nature of those connections, differentiating themselves from the world even as they accept their place in it. Once a person has come to terms with their two moments of crises, they are capable of receiving the beatific vision amidst the ‘lightning flash’ that joins them firmly to past incarnations and grants them an image of a future they can help manifest.
So, once you realize that your individuality, you may receive a glimpse into what you can work to achieve within this life. There is a strong emphasis on the “may receive,” because it is a kind of graceful excess which may not be given to all. Still, even for those who receive a glimpse of the vision, it is incomplete within their life. According to the Yeatsian spirits, the vision can be completed only in death, in part because in death they are being prepared for their next life in which the work may continue.
At this point, I’m sure a few readers are wandering where the spirits are in this account. This sounds pretty darn psychological, right? Well, it is. One of the things we really need to appreciate about the Yeatsian material is that its focus is on the here and now life of individual people, on their struggles for satisfaction and acceptance. But I did promise yu arcons, right? Here they come. I’ve talked a little about this before, but I’m going to repeat myself a bit so that this post stands more firmly on its own as an introduction.
Initiatory moments don’t just happen. They are the result of spiritual influence. Each person comes into life as part of a dyad that includes their conscious being and a daimon. While we have some control over our ideas and our desires, our daimon can manipulate our body of fate and our mask. The initiatory moments come about because daimons conspire with each other to put people into situations that will push them toward crises.
There are two reasons why they do this: either to bring about certain events or to bring children into the world. They don’t necessarily care about the sturm and drang of human life, except that it provides them with the ideal means of bringing about their own aims. The manipulation of events is clear enough, but it’s worth emphasizing that bringing children into the world also serves an ulterior motive. Every child comes in with another daimon.
Now, before we get too spooky conspiracy, we should emphasize that the daimon is also subject to the person. They are subject to the thoughts and desires of a person much like we are subject to the fate and mask. Moreover, we have a stake in events and in the new souls children represent, too. We are a lot like the daimons, so we should be cautious about overstating their interest in opposition to our own.
Heck, we should probably be a little careful about drawing the daimon outside of the line that defines ‘our self.’ In many ways, the Yeatsian material portrays us as much our daimon as we are our conscious self, pace the Stoics. This joins the Yeatsian material very tightly to the Jungian material (and so, too, to the P. K. Dickian material). The moments of crises have everything to do with realizing a more profound alliance between our conscious self and our daimon, with the vision situating that within a higher order we only dimly grasp.
But we still haven’t gotten to the arcons, so hold on a little longer.
Yeatsian arcons are a special class of spirits. In addition to the embodied souls that we and the daimon are, there are souls that exist between lives (warning: these aren’t arcons, either). Some of those souls have become stuck in the afterlife, unable to progress into a new life or pass beyond to some higher existence. This is because they died profoundly unresolved. Reading between the lines, it seems like they died without having ever achieved resolution through a crisis. They only have a few ways that they can move beyond their current state.
The most direct is vampiric, inflicting what the Yeatses’ call the ‘kiss of death’ on a living person. The kiss isolates a person from those around them (i.e., cuts them off from the daimonic work of initiatory moments and crises), afflicting them with something of an obsession (Leannansidhe, anyone?). The only way they can resolve this obsession is by manifesting its contents in some way, most often as a work of art. The process of working through the kiss into art clears the disembodied soul of its blockage and allows it to pass on.
That work also leaves an imprint in the spiritual world, an abstract formal being capable of shaping and manipulating the daimonic world on its own. This is, yes, an arcon, specifically an ‘arcon of form.’ This arcon can develop itself in the world by gathering and manipulating people through daimonic dimensions of experience. They can begin to insert themselves between the normal daimonic cycle that operates on romantic desire and develop more abstract relations.
There is a second option for a stranded soul, which is to re-enter the world and inflict the kiss of death on itself. As far as I can grasp, this essentially means either entering without a proper daimon or deliberately severing themselves from the daimon’s influence. This second option attracts the attention of the arcons who act as daimons and produce the sort of drama within a person’s life that will help them resolve their blockage in this life.
This arconic intervention is called the ‘kiss of life’ and, like the obsession of the kiss of death, leaves an imprint in the spiritual world that produces an arcon, an arcon of wisdom. These arcons do not directly involve themselves with the world quite the arcons of form and instead ‘cloak’ themselves in the spirits with unresolved issues. I think most anyone worth their spiritualist salt will notice that these sound a lot like the spirits that sit at the head of spiritual legions.
The Yeatsian spirits also make a point of emphasizing that while arcons of form are always ‘antithetical’ (lunar, obsessive), the arcons of wisdom may be either ‘antithetical’ or ‘primary’ (solar, expressive). Either way, though, the arcons of wisdom are concerned with the realization of human beings, with their achieving the appropriate sorts of initiatory moments and crises they require to move through their natural spiritual cycles, contra the arcons of form whose abstraction co-opts human life.
It’s worth underlining that the arcons of form aren’t evil, they are just more alien to the human spirit.
This is easily two or three times as long as an average post, so I’m going to pause here. I’ll pick up the thread of this discussion in future posts and start digging into the implications of this account. Again, I’m talking through this as carefully as I can, with some hesitations, but with a sense that there is something vital and true to be had from this.